Sport

Olympics committee rejects calls for trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to be disqualified

Patrick Kelleher July 17, 2021
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Laurel Hubbard Olympic athlete

Laurel Hubbard. (Scott Barbour/Getty)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has rejected calls for trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard to be disqualified because of her gender identity.

Hubbard made history in June when she was selected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics for New Zealand, making her the first openly trans athlete to achieve such a feat.

However, Laurel Hubbard has been dogged by transphobic criticism ever since, with some calling for her to be disqualified.

On Saturday (17 July), IOC president Thomas Bach reiterated that Hubbard was selected for participation in line with strict rules.

“The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started,” Bach said, according to Reuters.

“These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions.

“At the same time the IOC is in an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders… to review these rules and finally come up with some guidelines which cannot be rules because this is a question where there is no one-size fits all solution.

“It differs from sport to sport.”

When pressed on whether he supports Laurel Hubbard competing in the Olympics, Bach said: “The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system.

“This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied.”

Laurel Hubbard heading to Tokyo Olympics amid ‘huge focus’ on gender

Meanwhile, Ashley Abbott, New Zealand Olympic Committee communications director, told AFP that they are working closely with Laurel Hubbard to prepare her for the “huge focus” she is likely to face in Tokyo.

“We are working really closely with Laurel, as we do with any athlete, but particularly because of the huge focus on her,” Abbott said.

She went on to say they are deciding what will be best for Hubbard “in terms of interaction with the media”, adding that there will be “limits and things like that”.

“We will continue to work with her and make sure she is supported at all times and has got an understanding about what the environment might be like.

“It’s certainly something we have considered.”

Hubbard had a long and distinguished weightlifting career prior to her history-making selection for the Tokyo Olympics. She won silver at the 2017 world championship and finished sixth at the 2019 edition following an arm injury the year before.

She will compete in the women’s heavyweight category in Tokyo on 2 August.

In a statement following her selection, Hubbard said she was “grateful” for the opportunity.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroha’ [affection] carried me through the darkness,” she added.

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